A recent article on the BBC showed how renovation of art can go seriously wrong. Fortunately, this is not the norm, but it is sad to think that these historic items may never by the same again. A copy of The Immaculate Conception of El Escorial, by the Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo has been somewhat altered following a ‘repair’!
Accredited Art Restorers
In the UK there is an organisation for the accreditation of art restorers known as ICON. So, if you are thinking of having some artwork restored, or even just cleaned, it is worth visiting their website to see if the prospective restorer is accredited.
Most high net worth (HNW) insurers would expect an art restoration firm to cover items in their care, rather than the client’s cover being extended. Some insurers go further and have a clause that excludes this within their policy wording. If in doubt, ask your broker. It is also worth checking that your chosen restoration firm have adequate insurance in place to cover damage, not just damage that they may cause, but for example if there is a fire at their premises while your item is with them.
Two areas of cover offered by high net worth insurance policies, as opposed to standard policies, are Defective Title and Loss of Value.
Defective Title – if an item is bought in good faith but it later comes to light that it belongs to someone else, the insurers will pay for defence costs as well as the financial loss to the client should the item be reclaimed by its rightful owner (policy limits apply)
Loss of Value – when items have been repaired or restored, the value is usually diminished. Should an item be damaged by a claim that is covered by the policy, the insurers will pay the difference between the value prior to, and post restoration (policy limits apply)
A lot of art collectors believe that they are guardians of the art in their possession, preserving it for future generations. One of the largest collections in the world is under protection of the Royal Collection Trust. With more than a million pieces held by the Trust, they are often loaned to museums around the world as well as in the UK.
Having been in the insurance industry for around 24 years, with 20+ of those years in the high net worth area, I have heard a few stories! One tale that I have heard a couple of times is the acquisition of unsigned drawings or sketches that purport to be by a famous artist. The story usually goes that the while the artist was still a struggling unknown, they gave these items in exchange for food, drink and or lodgings. They are often sold in pubs as items that belonged to a distant relative and have recently been inherited, or rediscovered. It is a nice tale, but it is usually untrue!
If you have items of art, and you want to check their authenticity, there is a firm that can assist you. Art & Analysis Research use forensic techniques to inspect items of art and check their validity. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a particular type of paint that was not available at the time of the artist, therefore proving that it is not authentic.
Look into the eyes…
The owner of the damaged art work has since rendered the services of an experienced restoration professional, although it remains to be seen if a complete restoration is achievable. The eyes are tricky to get right, apparently!
So, if you are thinking of getting a piece of art cleaned or restored, make sure you check out the credentials of the firm you are using.